Beziers mayor to be tried for Muslim ‘problem’ comments

Robert Menard, who is an ally of France’s anti-immigrant National Front party, will face a charge in a Paris court of incitement to hatred or discrimination.

“In a class in the city center in my town, 91 percent of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance”, he said in September 5 comments on news channel LCI.

 

Also in September, on France’s first day back to school, he tweeted his regret at witnessing “the great replacement”, using a term by xenophobic writer Renaud Camus to describe the country’s white, Christian population being overtaken by foreign-born Muslims.

Menard, who is the mayor of southern France town Beziers, denied his comments were discriminatory.

“I just described the situation in my town,” he told AFP. “It is not a value judgement, it’s a fact. It’s what I can see.”

According to France-based anti-racism group Licra, the trial is set for March 8.

Menard prompted outrage in October by putting up anti-migrant posters and calling for a local referendum ahead of the arrival of asylum-seekers in his town.

Under the headline “That’s It, They’re Coming”, is an image of a crowd of migrants, all of them men, outside the cathedral in Beziers.

Menard was for 23 years the head of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders, which has distanced itself from him since he left in 2008.

Teen migrants head to UK as French court upholds ‘Jungle’ closure

France transferred another dozen mostly Afghan teenagers to Britain on Tuesday as efforts to rehouse the most vulnerable migrants of the “Jungle” camp in northern France accelerated ahead of its demolition.

The departures, which still amount to a small portion of an estimated 1,000 youngsters unaccompanied by adult family members, came as a court rejected a request by 11 charities that the closure of the Jungle be postponed.

A first busload of children arrived in Britain on Monday from the “Jungle” camp near the French port of Calais as the British government started to act on its commitment to take in unaccompanied migrant children before the camp is destroyed.

The court in Lille rejected the plea by local charities for more time to organize rehousing of the thousands who live there.

“It’s now just a matter of days,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told parliament after the closure ruling was announced. “We are now nearing the moment when the operation will begin.”

A 16-year-old Afghan named Azizullah was delighted to be leaving the camp that has come to symbolize the plight of war refugees.

“My dream came true because I want to see my brother, I miss him,” he said as he readied to leave. He planned to join his 36-year-old brother, who works in a pizza restaurant on the other side of the Channel.

President Francois Hollande, facing an election in April, has promised to shut down the camp under local pressure. His government has already started rehousing thousands of Jungle inhabitants in dozens of towns and villages across France.

Regarding the specific issue of unaccompanied children and teenagers who have fled war zones such as Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan, the transfers to Britain are taking place under EU family reunification rules known as the Dublin regulations.

Charities have accused Britain of dragging its heels on such transfers, prompting a Franco-British meeting last week which has been followed by transfers of a dozen migrants like Azizullah in the past two days.

New terrorism arrests in Germany heighten questions about scale of IS threat

A string of arrests

On September 13, three Syrians were arrested on terror charges in Germany’s northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. According to the Federal Prosecutor, the three men, aged 17 to 26, had arrived in the country in November 2015. While posing as refugees, they had already been tasked by the Islamic State to commit a terrorist attack. The youngest of the three had been given training in weapons and explosives in Syria; and the trio received “higher four-figure sums in American currency” as well as mobile phones while in Germany. However, at the time of their arrest in their respective shelters for asylum seekers, their plans had not yet come close to fruition. ((https://www.generalbundesanwalt.de/de/showpress.php?newsid=628 ))

Raising a potential link to a larger IS network, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière stated that the men had been brought to Europe by the same people smugglers’ ring as the perpetrators of the November 2015 Paris attacks. Moreover, their counterfeit passports appeared to have been produced by the same IS-run workshop in Raqqa that had already produced the ´passports found on the perpetrators of the bombings and shootings in the French capital. ((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/festnahmen-de-maizire-terrorverdaechtige-hatten-bezug-zu-paris-attentaetern-1.3159581 ))

Eight days later, on September 21, a 16-year-old Syrian was arrested in a makeshift housing unit in Cologne, where he had been plotting a bomb attack. He had received extensive guidance from abroad via online messaging services; and the young man’s IS-linked chat partner had given advice about how to build an explosive device and where to plant it. The 16-year old had been in Germany as a refugee with his parents and his sister since January 2015. ((http://www.heute.de/nach-festnahme-in-koeln-junger-syrischer-fluechtling-hat-laut-polizei-sprengstoffanschlag-geplant-45319066.html ))

The spectre of a larger network involving refugees

Against this backdrop, Thomas de Maizière asserted anew that the ‘Islamic State’ was not dependent on the refugee treks to bring its members and sympathisers to Europe. Rather than being an operational necessity, the infltration of these treks in fact constitues a means to discredit refugees and exacerbate simmering social tensions in Europe, or so de Maizière argued. ((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/festnahmen-de-maizire-terrorverdaechtige-hatten-bezug-zu-paris-attentaetern-1.3159581 ))

Whilst this is surely part of the IS’s calculation, a trove of documents from European security services analysed by CNN shows that interior ministries and their intelligence agencies are more concerned about the number of jihadis concealed among the refugees than de Maizière wants to admit. These documents reveal the extent to which the ‘Islamic State’ has systematically relied on the flow of migrants to channel its fighters into Europe, as well as the suspected size of the resulting European IS-controlled network. ((http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/05/politics/isis-suspects-terrorism-europe-documents/index.html ))

At the same time, the precise relationship of other attackers to the IS terror organisation remain more opaque. Of the two recent perpetrators of terror attacks in Germany, the Ansbach suicide bomber appears to have received more detailed instructions from an IS-linked source for a longer period of time. While after his death the IS claimed that it had sent him, the man nevertheless seems not connected to any of the other IS networks in Europe. The young Afghan who attacked the passengers of a regional train near Würzburg seems to have established contact with IS-channels only late in the day, without having been sent to Germany by the organisation. Subsequently he nevertheless received extensive guidance from IS operatives. ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-09/islamischer-staat-europa-festnahmen-deutschland-terrorverdacht-syrer )) The IS thus proves itself once more  to be rather flexible in its dealings with potential recruits.

Anti-Muslim views rise across Europe

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/11/anti-muslim-views-rise-across-europe/

 

http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/07/11/europeans-fear-wave-of-refugees-will-mean-more-terrorism-fewer-jobs/

 

Europe’s relationship with its Muslim minority has long been fraught. Over the past year, it seems to have become worse.

 

A wave of migrants and refugees from Muslim-majority nations have inflamed the debate about immigration on the continent, fueling the rise of far-right parties and probably contributing to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. At the same time, groups claiming to be inspired by an extremist version of Islam have carried out devastating attacks in France and Belgium.

 

Now a poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center shows that in several European nations, unfavorable views of Muslims seem to have surged in 2016.

 

In Britain, the figure jumped nine percentage points to 28 percent. In Spain and Italy, unfavorable views jumped eight percentage points each, to 50 percent and 69 percent, respectively. In Greece, unfavorable views were found in 65 percent of the country — a jump of 12 percentage points from 2014, the last time the question was asked.

 

Across the 10 European countries surveyed, a median of 59 percent felt that an increase in refugees would increase the likelihood of terrorism in a country — a figure higher than it is for concerns about the economic effect or crime in most countries.

 

In Britain, 80 percent of those with an unfavorable view of Muslims felt that refugees presented a terror threat. Only 40 percent of those with a favorable view of Muslims made the same link. A similar gap of 24 to 40 percentage points could be seen in all other countries surveyed.

 

Pew’s research also found notable splits in views on Muslims and refugees. Generally, those on the right had more negative views of both, with supporters of far-right or populist parties such as the U.K. Independence Party and France’s National Front having the most negative views. Old people and those with lower levels of education also tended to have more negative views across most countries, while young people and the highly educated were more positive about Muslims. Those with high levels of education were also more likely to believe that diversity of races, ethnic groups and nationalities in their country was a positive, as contrasted with less-educated peers, who were more likely to see it as a negative.

 

H.A. Hellyer, a senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London and author of “Muslims of Europe: The ‘Other’ Europeans,” says the broad results of the poll aren’t surprising. “You’ve seen a mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment into the political arena over the past few years, if not the past decade,” he said Monday.

 

Hellyer said that while much of that discourse comes from the right, Europe’s left has struggled to counter it. “The left will need to think creatively about how they address the issue of immigration, without falling into populism but addressing the emotional concerns” of much of the public, he said.

 

Sara Silvestri, a specialist on religion and politics with a focus on Islam and the European Union based between City University London and Cambridge University, says that while she hasn’t noticed a change in anti-Muslim rhetoric in political discourse over the past year, she says the “behavior seems to have worsened,” with organizations such as Britain’s Faith Matters collecting data that appears to show an increase in hate crimes and discrimination.

Headscarves not an issue for young people

From the perspective of the Young Islam Conference, the timing couldn’t be better. On the very day when 100 members of the organization met for their annual national congress in Berlin, Germany’s constitutional court struck down the existing absolute ban on head coverings in state schools as incompatible with religious freedom. Teachers at state schools are now allowed to wear headscarves during lessons, unless those schools can demonstrate that this poses a specific risk or danger to the harmonious environment.

For Esra Kücük, head of the Young Islam Conference, this is good news. She’s very pleased with the judges’ verdict. “We have a number of trainee teachers among us who wear headscarves and had been concerned about whether they’d even be allowed to work,” she says. These young women can now complete their training in the certainty that they won’t be prevented from working when they have finished. “What we’re seeing is a modern immigration country that is catching up and correcting past mistakes. It’s a retroactive integration process,” says Kücük.

The judges’ decision merely reproduces something no longer questioned in broader society, she explains: greater openness and tolerance towards the Muslim minority.

Young people in Germany are open to Muslims

Her assessment corresponds with a recent study carried out by the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM), which surveyed more than 8,000 people, including more than 1,100 youths and young adults. The study found that young people in Germany are much more open towards the Muslim minority than adults.

“Understanding normality as diverse”: head of the Young Islam Conference (JIK) Esra Kücük spoke out in favour of a more open and varied society in Germany

For instance, 71 per cent of 18-to-25-year-olds think Muslim teachers should be allowed to wear headscarves during lessons. (Among adults 55 per cent are in favour of banning headscarves.) This shows that in actual fact, in recent years the headscarf debate has been going on over the heads of those actually affected by it, says Kücük.

Most school pupils have no problem with their teacher being a religious Muslim, she adds; for them, a Muslim teacher with a headscarf is just as much part of Germany as a non-Muslim teacher with her head uncovered.

Integration in Germany is better than its reputation

This is no surprise, explains Naika Foroutan, a social scientist at Berlin’s Humboldt University and head of the BIM. Today’s 16-to-25-year-olds have grown up with the discourse about Muslims and Islam. They were children when the immigration commission under the former CDU politician Rita Süssmuth presented its study on migrants’ integration in 2001.

The subject has been on the public agenda ever since and much of what still seems unthinkable to adults has long become par for the course for teenagers and young adults, says Foroutan. “You could say that integration in Germany is better than its reputation,” she sums up.

The majority of Germans see Germany as a diverse and mixed immigration country, she explains; however, 30 per cent of the population still expressly reject this idea. In this case more should be done to educate and inform, says Foroutan. She considers this difficult, however, because those opposed to immigration, such as the followers of the xenophobic Pegida movement, distrust the media. The best way to reach them, she says, is to make greater use of other intermediaries, people often referred to as “pillars” of society such as teachers, police officers and those working in public administration.

Migration researcher Naika Foroutan criticised the fact that performance and qualifications are no guarantee of good career opportunities for migrants. Although every fifth person in Germany has a history of migration either themselves or in their family, she explained, this group makes up only 10 per cent of the public sector workforce

Despite these positive findings, knowledge of Muslims and Islam is still not widespread. Some 60 per cent of young people gauge their knowledge as low. Most of them draw what they do know from encounters with migrants. Schools and universities are also important providers of knowledge. Only 28 per cent of young people state that they learn about Muslims and Islam via television. Among adults, this figure is significantly higher, at 46 per cent.

“Whose is the West?”

The Young Islam Conference (JIK) was founded in 2010 by the Mercator Foundation and the Humboldt University. It views itself as a forum for dialogue and a network of young multipliers aged 17 to 25. Members from 13 of Germany’s 16 federal states meet up once a year for a national congress.

In 2013 the JIK called on the German parliament to set up a study commission on diversity and cultural participation. The aim would be to bring together experts to provide models for a diverse immigration society and concepts for equal opportunities in participation. The conference head Esra Kücük says they want to develop this suggestion further this year.

This year’s congress, held at the Foreign Office in Berlin, asks the question “Whose is the West?” – in response to the debate on the xenophobic movements demonstrating in numerous German cities in recent months, under the motto “against the Islamization of the West”. The participants spent three days exchanging ideas and opinions in workshops and panel discussions. The conference invitation outlined the focus of the event as “confronting the theses and positions of those who are trying to divide us.”

Erdogan’s visit to Vienna and the Austrian Foreign Minister’s reaction

June 20, 2014

The upcoming visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan ensures that some Austrian politicians will react very emotionally. Beside the Austrian Foreign Minister, however, some rightwing politicians criticize the Turkish Prime Minister. Nonetheless, some politicians are accusing Erdogan of splitting the Turkish community in Austria. The Austrian Foreign Minister already tweeted that Erdogan should choose his words carefully towards his fellowmen and he should not influence the integration process of Turkish migrants in Austria in a negative way. Soon afterwards a Turkish politician reacted; he tweeted that the “young” Austrian Foreign Minister should apologize for his words addressed towards the Turkish Prime Minister.

Growing racism in Europe: Published annual report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance

October 29, 2013

 

Financial instability leads to an increase of resentment and prejudice against migrants, Muslims and Roma.

Now available online, the annual report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI ) which shows the level of racism in EU countries. European countries, the report says, must come to terms with their multiculturalism and recognize the important role that immigration plays in the economy.

According to the report, the financial instability leads to an increase of resentment and prejudice against migrants, Muslims and Roma. This is what ECRI noted in visits to member countries in 2012. It also highlights the increasing consensus of xenophobic parties and their growing presence in European parliaments and the spread of hate speech on the internet.

The report also notes the plight of Roma children who have little access to education or suffer school segregation. According to ECRI it is important that EU and non-EU countries implement strategies for Roma inclusion.

Finally, ECRI calls on member states to implement a constructive dialogue with representatives of Muslim communities and the media to encourage discussion and strengthen inter-religious dialogue.

 

The full report [in English] can be found here: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/activities/Annual_Reports/Annual%20report%202012.pdf

ImmigrazioneOggi: http://immigrazioneoggi.it/daily_news/notizia.php?id=005833#.UnOeXxD9zTo

Move over organic – the new big business in food is halal

The Haloodies, a growing group of food lovers who are bored of curries, fed up with kebabs, and long for nothing more exotic than a shepherd’s pie. Their increasing spending power has sparked a race among retailers, wholesalers and canny restaurateurs to carve out a chunk of a market that is worth about £420bn globally.

 

This week an estimated 20,000 Haloodies will congregate in east London at the Halal Food Festival, the world’s first gastronomic celebration of halal produce. All of the UK’s major supermarket chains are sending scouts to help them find ways to exploit the trend. Attendees can browse food stalls offering anything from hot dogs and sushi to French and Moroccan dishes without worrying how the meat was killed or even transported.

 

Imran Kausar, a doctor by training, who masterminded the festival, said British Muslims were no longer “economic migrants trying to make do [but] affluent and aspirational members of the middle class [who wanted to] expand their culinary horizon.” He added: “While typical British dishes have got more exotic, Muslims want the reverse. We want regular stuff like shepherd’s pie, which we see everywhere but we can’t try.”

 

Contrary to stereotypes, not all those planning to go will be Muslim by faith: there is a small but expanding group of people who opt for halal much as they might choose free-range or organic meat. Around 4 per cent of the UK’s population is Muslim, yet halal produce comprises more than 15 per cent of all meat sold in the UK, according to Saqib Mohammed, the chief executive of the Halal Food Authority, one of the two main organisations that regulate Britain’s halal food industry. “Some is exported but the rest is being consumed by non-Muslims,” he said, adding: “Educated non-Muslims are convinced that halal meat is more hygienic.”

 

Restaurant chains are changing their menus to use only halal chicken. Although halal is most often used in connection with meat, the word simply means “lawful” and refers to any object, not just food, or action or behaviour that is deemed permissible under Islamic law. For meat to be considered halal the animal must be alive and healthy before it is killed, crucially with a single cut across the jugular. All the blood must be drained from the body and the slaughterer must recite a special Islamic prayer as the animal is killed.

 

The point that arouses controversy is whether the animal has been stunned first: stunning livestock is compulsory throughout the EU but most member states, including the UK, grant exemptions to Muslims and Jews. That said, Food Standards Agency data published last year shows that 84 per cent of all cattle and calves slaughtered by the halal method in the UK in 2011 were stunned first.

Court decision on school swimming for Muslim pupils

Sep 11th

 

The Federal Administrative Court of the city of Leipzig has rejected the complaint of a Moroccan family from Frankfurt, complaining against obligatory swimming education for their thirteen years old daughter. According to the court, religion is not a sufficient reason to avoid public swimming. A whole-body swimsuit (Burkini) is reasoned to be sufficient covering the entire body, enabling Muslim girls to participate at school swimming.

 

The Minister of the German State Hesse interpreted the court rule as a pathbreaking decision for the integration of migrants. The court in Leipzig reasoned its decision with the aim to ensure the application of law to all subjects. No minority group should be excluded from German society.

 

Lampedusa awaits the Pope who will meet Muslim Immigrants

7/7/2013

 

Last minute preparations are being made on the Island for the arrival of the Pope on Monday morning at 9:15. Likely 15,000 in attendance, the mayor: “A visit at no cost thanks to the involvement of citizens”.

 

The Pope will meet one of the fifty Muslim refugees at Pier Favaloro in Lampedusa. This was confirmed by the parish priest of the island, Don Stefano Nastas. “We chose” explains Fr Stepheno “men, women, children, and youth. They are representative of those who are at the reception center.” For the Pope’s visit, 15,000 people are expected, including thousands of pilgrims.

The Program. The Pope will depart from Ciampino Airport at 8 am and at 9:15 am will land on the island where he will be welcomed by the Archbishop of Agrigento, Francesco Montenegro, and the Mayor of Pelagie, Giusi Nicolini. Off the coast, near the port of Europe, He will launch a wreath in memory of those who lost their lives at sea. At 9:30, a boat will enter the port where customarily immigrants arrive. At 10, the mass. Papa Francesco use a chalice made ​​with wooden pieces from the boats of immigrants. At 11:30, the pontiff will reach the parish of St. Gerland. At 12:30 will leave the parish and will go to the airport at 12:45 where he will land at Ciampino airport an hour later. During his visit, the Pope will meet with, as mentioned, a delegation of 50 migrants who are housed at the reception center on the island.